For more than 61 consecutive years, the U.S. House and Senate Armed Services Committees have worked on a bipartisan basis to ensure the passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA). The NDAA is the key authorization bill that establishes national security policy and funding levels for the Department of Defense, Department of Energy, and other intelligence community programs. This tradition of bipartisanship has held true regardless of which party holds the majority—and it should be expected that this closely guarded tradition will continue in the 118th Congress.
With Republicans again in the majority in the House of Representatives, however, aggressive oversight of the Biden Administration’s national security agenda should also come as no surprise. For example, would-be Chairman Mike Rogers of the House Armed Services Committee has already highlighted a number of oversight targets that fall into three broad categories: (1) the recently released National Defense Strategy and threats emanating from China and Russia; (2) military readiness and our defense posture; and (3) issues that Republicans view as non-core defense priorities.
The first and second categories include issues where there will be bipartisan agreement, in particular:
- Continued scrutiny of defense supply chains—building upon the work that has been done over the last few Congresses that impose use and procurement bans on Chinese companies;
- Efforts to shore up the defense industrial base through and building out of partnerships with key allies like Canada, England and Australia; and
- Oversight aimed at ensuring the readiness of our military given global threats; including recruitment trends and munitions shortfalls stemming from Ukraine aid.
The third non-core defense priority category includes Department of Defense climate focused spending; implementation of diversity and inclusion programs; the adoption of mandatory vaccination policies; and service member access to abortion.
In this category, there will also be investigations focused on the withdrawal of Afghanistan and threats emanating from China, including the theft of U.S. technology and origins of COVID 19. Each of these oversight issues could be incorporated into the Chairman’s Full Committee Policy agenda, handled by a Task Force or specially designated subcommittee, or folded into larger leadership efforts undertaken by Senate or House leadership. Regardless, there will likely be series of briefings and hearings with Defense officials and contractors along with requests for relevant data, records, and information.
It is worth noting that the 2022 midterm elections look a lot like the midterms in 2010. The 2010 election ended unified Democratic control of Congress and upended the Obama Administration’s national security agenda with a number of high-profile investigations and consequent executive branch obligations to appropriately and adequately respond to the flood of hearing, briefing, and document requests. The same is on the House Republican agenda today.